Op­por­tu­nity for vil­lagers to grow greens, earn money for sur­vival

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - Htspotligh­t - Ra­jesh Ku­mar Singh let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com

LUCKNOW: And now, for some good that came out of the lock­down.

Ac­chey Lal, 65, walks from his vil­lage Rigwa Bu­jurg, in Hamir­pur to river Betwa daily to col­lect the vegetables he planted on the river banks and trans­ports them to nearby Orai town in Jalaun dis­trict.

Two months back peo­ple were not per­mit­ted to plant fruits and vegetables, or col­lect sand from the river banks. The state mining de­part­ment had floated bids for sand mining, and the con­trac­tors and their hench­men who got the bid, had un­leashed a reign of ter­ror in the area. Res­i­dents of nearby vil­lages who moved near the river were chased away and even beaten, Lal said.

The sce­nario changed af­ter the im­ple­men­ta­tion of the na­tion­wide lock­down on March 25 and the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion ban­ning mining ac­tiv­i­ties. The con­trac­tors and their hench­men, who came from dis­tant places, had to move out with their ma­chines, trac­tors and trucks, he said.

The na­tives of the nearby vil­lages saw an op­por­tu­nity and moved ad­ja­cent to the river, where there is am­ple wa­ter and the soil is fer­tile. “We planted a va­ri­ety of vegetables and crops. Within a month, the vegetables are ready for sale in the mar­ket. Dur­ing the lock­down, when jobs are scarce, vil­lagers, a ma­jor­ity of them land­less, daily-wage work­ers, are earning livelihood by selling the vegetables they pro­duce, in the nearby man­dis, vil­lages and towns,” Lal said.

Gram Prad­han Laxmi Narayan said that a large num­ber of mi­grant work­ers had re­turned to the vil­lage af­ter the lock­down. They are lo­cal youths who had mi­grated to Delhi and Mumbai in search of jobs. They were quar­an­tined in school build­ings. Af­ter com­plet­ing the manda­tory 14-day quar­an­tine, they agreed to guard the veg­etable. “We have erected tem­po­rary hut­ments for their next 14-day quar­an­tine as di­rected by the dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said.

“The cost of the trans­porta­tion of the veg­etable is cut­ting into profit, yet we hope that dur­ing lock­down when all the ac­tiv­i­ties are closed, we can make a lit­tle earning,” Narayan said.

The dis­trict ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cers in Jalaun and Hamir­pur dis­tricts said or­ders have been is­sued to po­lice per­son­nel to per­mit farm­ers to trans­port vegetables, grain and other agri­cul­ture pro­duce to the mar­kets. The farm­ers have been di­rected to fol­low lock­down pro­to­cols: to cover their face with a mask, wash hands with soap, and prac­tise so­cial dis­tanc­ing in the mar­kets, or while work­ing in the fields, the of­fi­cers said.

Rama Ke­wat, a na­tive of Ha­sudi vil­lage in Hamir­pur dis­trict, said that a check on mining will pro­mote the fish­ery busi­ness as well. The il­le­gal mining by sand con­trac­tors had made an ad­verse im­pact on the ecol­ogy of the river. “Now, it’s im­prov­ing fast. Soon, we will start sup­ply­ing fish too,” he said.

An­other vil­lager, Dayashanka­r, a res­i­dent of Rin­uwa vil­lage, said that the wa­ter ta­ble in the area has also im­proved af­ter the ban on mining. Ear­lier, vil­lagers had to walk long dis­tances to col­lect potable wa­ter. “Now, the wells and hand pumps are filled with wa­ter,” he said. An of­fi­cer in the state mining de­part­ment, who did not wish to be named, said that there are around 2,500 mines in the state, in­clud­ing sand, stone and other min­er­als. Af­ter the lock­down, all mines are closed lead­ing to a loss of rev­enue. The state gov­ern­ment had set a tar­get of Rs 4,400 crore rev­enue from the mining sec­tor in the fi­nan­cial year 2019-20, but the de­part­ment has col­lected Rs 1,900 crore till Fe­bru­ary.

“We were hope­ful of reach­ing 2,300 crore by March end but the lock­down has hit our rev­enuecol­lec­tion tar­get,” he said.

The mining de­part­ment had re­ceived in­for­ma­tion about the plan­ta­tion ac­tiv­i­ties by farm­ers on the river banks. “We are not stop­ping it, as the vil­lagers are not in­dulging in any il­le­gal sand­min­ing ac­tiv­i­ties. The lo­cal ad­min­is­tra­tion and po­lice is mon­i­tor­ing their ac­tiv­i­ties,” he said.



■ The land­less farm­ers in Rigwa Bu­jurg vil­lage in Hamir­pur dis­trict who have planted vegetables on the bank of river Betwa af­ter ban on sand mining dur­ing the na­tion­wide lock­down.

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